14 jobs that will be replaced by artificial intelligence or robots (plus 11 roles that won’t)
Earned income is crucial to financial wellbeing and growing your wealth, but it’s tough to earn if you’re replaced by a worker with impeccable attention to detail, who also never; sleeps, gets tired, or asks for a raise!
The artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is changing the way the future might look. Every passing day, we are witnessing increasingly advanced AI and robots. When it comes to jobs, this is twofold:
Advanced robotics might take over many labour-intensive tasks. These are often called blue collar jobs
AI might replace many office-based and services roles. Sometimes these are called white collar jobs
The concern for the safety and future of jobs has constantly been growing. However, it is likely that just as was the case with all other innovative technologies in the past, AI and advanced robotics will bring many opportunities and new jobs and expose the risks associated with old jobs. Even better, most experts in this area think the transition will happen slowly, so people who want to work can up-skill and learn how to complement these new technologies – rather than compete directly against them.
1. Taxi and Truck Drivers
Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have revolutionised the taxi business. These companies now focus on autonomous driving, where a robot instead of a human drives the car. It is inevitable that taxis and buses will all be self-driven and fully autonomous in a few years. Every year, new AI features are being added to new models of cars.
Many multinational corporations are now using robots at their reception. Some of these are ‘off the shelf’ advanced AI receptionists like AimeReception, which provides a virtual character (avatar) who can see, listen, understand, and talk with guests and customers. They automate various tasks normally performed by a receptionist, such as; welcoming visitors, meeting room guidance, floor information guidance. These tools are already so smart they can remember the faces of customers and automatically guide customers to the correct meeting rooms – and measure customer data statistics while they do it.
3. Security and Military Personnel
Loss of human life is a matter of great concern for the militaries and security agencies worldwide. Therefore, more companies are now considering how AI can be used to replace human workers and reduce the risk of human loss in military operations.
Better and cheaper cameras that can operate in low-light conditions are already reducing the role of security guards.
AI is also changing how wars will be fought on future battlefields. While the infantry will still be on the battlefield, human counterparts might be able to stay out of harm's way just a little longer thanks to the robots. Conceptually, these robots are very similar to security guards, except they can use deadly weapons. The first versions (one is already deployed by the Israeli military) are vehicle-based, with the potential to move autonomously.
Given the complexities of combat, including the dire consequences of correctly distinguishing friend from foe from civilian, development in this area might take a little longer than many experts think.
For most of the last 200 years, technology has been replacing jobs on the farm. Moving forwards, this trend will ramp-up as farmers are increasingly replaced by robotic systems. Robots will likely make inroads fastest in areas where the work is backbreaking, and when peak harvest times increase the demand for workers.
Most robots have been built for specialised tasks such as: grapevine pruning, lettuce thinning, strawberry picking and cow-milking. But corn and other ‘commodity crops’ are already taking advantage of economies of scale to get ahead of the cost curve. For instance, large corn farmers in the US are buying features like self-steering tractors to save money.
The mainstream media and their journalists once had a total monopoly on information and the ability to widely distribute it to the masses. Nowadays, anyone with a smartphone and a data connection has access to tools which 30 years ago only top journalists could access. This has combined with technological trends moving attention away from traditional newspapers, magazines, radio, and television to heap pressure on mainstream journalism – if no one pays attention to their material, the media companies can’t sell advertising slots. As if that wasn’t bad enough, increased government funding of New Zealand media has polarised public opinion and given rise to allegations of media bias and corruption.
With this backdrop, the rise of AI tools which can quickly assess large amounts of information and write material pose an obvious threat to journalists. One of Europe’s biggest media groups has warned journalists that AI could steal their jobs and has provided tips for how reporters can avoid the chop.
The chief executive of Axel Springer — which owns Insider, Politico and German tabloid newspaper Bild — told employees in a memo that
“artificial Intelligence has the potential to make independent journalism better than it ever was — or simply replace it.”
In the memo, Mathias Döpfner predicts that AI will soon be able to aggregate information much better than humans and urges newsrooms to place a greater emphasis on commentary, exclusive news and investigations that can’t be done by machines.
6. Accountants and Bookkeepers
Many companies are now using AI for their bookkeeping practices. These services provide an efficient accounting system and flexibility and security, considering that they are available as cloud-based services. All you need to do is enter your daily transactions into the software, which will take care of the rest.
AI will ensure the data is collected, stored, and analysed correctly.
For small businesses, even simple software such as Hubdoc can already read bills and receipts and load them into an accounting system, replacing a job that once needed a human.
For companies with bigger budgets, software products such as Automation Anywhere, Datamatics, and Blue Prism can automate various office jobs. Some systems can also be trained to extract and “study” data from an Excel file.
Then there's the data analytics. Products like PricewaterhouseCoopers Halo, for example, can process all a company's data to look for anomalies rather than relying on an audit. Humans will still be involved in robot training and higher levels of analysis, but the rote work – data entry, copying and pasting, sorting, and reordering – will be eliminated.
7. Proofreaders and Translators
There are many AI-powered tools available for writers that they can use to self-check their own writing. The natural language processing capability of such AI tools allows writers to check their writings for readability issues, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes.
Grammarly is a good example of such a tool. You can translate your writing into hundreds of other languages thanks to AI tools like DeepL and Google Translate.
8. Bank Tellers and Representatives
First it was the automatic teller machine (ATM) that ate into human banking jobs, then phone-banking, then the smartphone app.
Commentators now say it’s likely that many of the remaining human-based teller and representative banking jobs will be finished off by AI. This is because AI is soon expected to be able to open accounts and process loan applications, all at a fraction of the cost and time it takes for human employees.
9. Surgical Assistants
AI and robotics advancements have opened truly revolutionary possibilities for doctors and surgeons. Considering that robotic doctors are perfectly capable of performing critical operations, they are expected to take over the surgical assistant role entirely.
Also, robotic doctors can eliminate the chances of human error in surgeries. A robot called Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) has already performed a successful keyhole surgery on pigs without human assistance.
Pharmaceutical labs are using AI technology to speed up the research and discovery of new drugs and improve internal pharmaceutical processes.
Global heavyweight corporations including FedEx, Amazon, Walmart, and UPS have all revealed exciting plans in this area, with a common theme of replacing delivery people with robots and drones. Although drone delivery is being implemented gradually, it will surely take over courier services in the future. AI is helping these companies streamline various supply chain and logistics functions.
11. Retail Salespeople
Gone are the days when corporations required salespeople for advertising and retail activities. Advertising has shifted towards web and social media landscapes. The built-in target marketing capabilities in social media allow advertisers to create custom content for different types of audiences. AI can learn your shopping behaviours and patterns and give product recommendations accordingly.
Retailers are democratising the shopping experience by allowing customers to research the products themselves. You don’t have to be accompanied by a salesperson during shopping or checkout.
Overseas, one of the best examples of AI in retail is Amazon Go, the world's most advanced shopping technology that requires no checkout. Another advanced tool is already prevalent in Japan, which is probably the largest development hub for humanoid robots, where SoftBank Robotics has sold thousands of its Pepper robots. Back here in New Zealand, we’re nearly all already familiar with tools such as self-checkout at supermarkets.
Globally, this is probably the largest industry where people are scared that robots will take their jobs. Luckily, New Zealand doesn’t have many factory workers relative to other countries, so the impact here will be less than overseas.
13. Customer Service Representatives
Most of the time, the queries and problems of customers are repetitive. Answering these queries does not require high emotional or social intelligence. Therefore, AI can be used to provide automated responses to frequently asked questions.
Chatbots can also respond to inquiries 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which suits many busy customers who are already accustomed to sending and receiving short text messages, especially for simple queries and troubleshooting. These matters may include delivery status, payment confirmation, order cancellation, or refund status. If the bot cannot handle the queries, they can be escalated to a human customer service representative.
Many large companies already rely on automated robots called ‘chatbots’ and other software to answer customer support questions and frequently asked questions (FAQ). As AI improves, these efforts are intensifying.
Some teachers are already worried about students using ChatGPT to cheat on their homework, but according to Pengcheng Shi, an associate dean in the department of computing and information sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology, they should also be thinking about their job security.
ChatGPT "can easily teach classes already," Shi told the New York Post.
"Although it has bugs and inaccuracies in terms of knowledge, this can be easily improved," he said. "Basically, you just need to train the ChatGPT."
Countering this, many teachers cite the human element of instruction, including the emotional intelligence and coaching aspects.
Jobs AI Can't Replace
While AI will take over several jobs and industries, it cannot "take over the world,” as reported by some media outlets. In fact, it will lead to new sectors and create millions of jobs requiring human employees.
However, there are still many limitations that are associated with AI. At this stage it is limited to pre-fed tasks and requires maintenance and constant supervision. Therefore, it cannot perform tasks that involve reasoning, such as marketing research analysis or manage interpersonal conflict.
It usually lacks critical thinking and human creativity. Therefore, it mostly works from other people's work. It lacks social or emotional intelligence, so it has no sense of safety, privacy, or ethics and can’t express feelings.
The jobs that will not be replaced by AI are those that require creativity, empathy, and complex strategic roles.
1. High-End Operators
Anyone is safe who is focussed on luxury or high-end operations. This might even include sections of people from the list above.
That might include:
Teachers or instructors of complex or sophisticated fields.
Bank tellers or retail salespeople who are focussed on high-net-worth (HNW) individuals. HNW customers are more than likely to pay for top tier services, including from humans.
Financial advisers, lawyers, or other professionals servicing HNW clients.
Accountants who are implementing, executing, or advising upon sophisticated tax and accounting matters.
Because of the service expectations and problem-solving abilities tied to these roles, they’re unlikely to be replaced by AI or robots any time soon.
2. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs)
Grit, strategy, complex problem solving, instinct, and leadership can’t be imitated by a machine, but as already happens, people in this sort of role can benefit greatly from the use of technology.
Despite recent advancements, AI still lacks the ability to reason and has no emotional intelligence. Robots are not smart enough to find the precise point to hit the opposite party with the right argument during a negotiation or a jury trial.
Also, even rudimentary laws and regulations change regularly, which increases the likelihood that AI or machine-learning tools make a mistake by being slightly out of date.
While AI technology can check the writing for spelling mistakes, plagiarism, and clarity, it still lacks some deep aspects involved in reviewing content, comprehensiveness, balance, tone, and ensuring compliance with laws or regulations.
Editors also take an overview of production, for instance, in mainstream media they’re responsible for the maintenance of journalistic standards, and hopefully the avoidance of click bait, untrue information, and gutter journalism. Much of this involves fact-checking and reasoning skills, which only humans possess, for now at least!
5. Computer Scientists and Software Developers
When it comes to software development, different clients have different demands. Creating and executing a plan perfectly requires tremendous time and skill investment. It is unlikely that AI will completely replace human programmers and write code from its own research. Therefore, software engineering and web developer jobs will be safe in the foreseeable future. However, AI is expected to dramatically change how computer scientists and software developers work. As each coder becomes more productive with AI assistance, they’re going to be able to code more in a shorter amount of time. As a result, the cost of having a program written for you might be half what it was before.
Because of lower cost, there might be increased demand for programming services.
6. Project Managers
Project managers manage the planning, resourcing, scheduling, and administration of projects to deliver them on time and within budget. Project management can span a huge variety of fields: from construction, to IT, to corporate mergers.
Given the varied tasks required of project managers, including operating in a dynamic environment, maintaining relations with various stakeholders, and plenty of hands-on people management, it’s difficult to see how such a role could be replaced by a robot anytime soon.
7. PR Managers
Public relations is all about creating relationships and expanding your network. Public relations managers must deal with several different types of people that might be reached out to through different mediums of communication.
Also, it is necessary for PR managers to use the human touch to raise awareness, encourage people to join a campaign, create a buzz or raise funds. AI technologies currently lack the ability to connect with the human brain at an emotional level.
8. Event Planners
For successful event management, there are various components that need to be considered. Event planners must conduct market research and coordinate with multiple third parties to make things come together, including contractors, vendors, and freelancers. Everything must be planned and executed according to the client's customized requirements. This aspect is something that can’t be automated using artificial intelligence.
9. Human Resources (HR) Roles
When it comes to recruiting, sustaining, and evaluating talent, HR specialists should not feel intimidated or threatened by machines. The use of sound judgment when assessing the qualifications of applicants, workforce planning, or dealing with disputes in the workplace is also another characteristic an HR specialist must display.
Possessing top-notch interpersonal skills is an important quality of any HR specialist to shine.
Sadly, for AI, it can never boast of those skills, thus keeping it from being no more than a helpful tool in the HR department.
10. Marketing Managers
To create engaging content and marketing campaigns, market research analysts need to monitor trends, interpret data, and oversee campaigns. They also need to make changes in real time according to the feedback. While AI can help marketing managers predict campaign performance, it is unlikely that it will replace the role of humans.
11. Any Role Requiring Human Connection and Empathy
Any role that requires support, comfort, conversation, empathy, or other human connection is probably safe. This includes a wide range of careers, including:
Psychologists and psychiatrists
11. Entertainers and Film Makers
In the film industry AI has become an important tool. For instance, AI can help streamline pre-production processes and make special effects appear more realistic and immersive.
However, filmmakers have something that AI doesn’t: the human touch.
And that is why machines are very much unlikely to leave filmmakers, the ones who have absolute power over the artistic and dramatic aspects of films, searching for other jobs.
Meanwhile, other roles in entertainment such as actors, comedians, and singers have been complemented by AI, but their passion, creativity, and skillsets are probably not going to be replaced by technological solutions. It looks like singers, actors, comedians, and so on, will be safe from the AI revolution.
Professional athletes probably also fall into this category!
The Bottom Line: Which Jobs Will AI Take, and Which Are Safe?
AI and advanced robotics can do amazing things already — what they will do in the future is bound to be even more impressive.
When it comes to your career and your earning power, try and stick with industries or roles where a human touch will likely be a critical component for years to come.
Then, there’ll be a better chance you’ll stay in a career where you are unlikely to be replaced by a robot, allowing you to have a rewarding career until you are ready to give retirement a go.